Football boss quits after just one day over shameful ties to anti-LGBTQ+, anti-abortion church

Andrew Thorburn wears a suit as he stares somewhere off camera

Andrew Thorburn resigned just a day after being appointed CEO of Essendon Football Club over links to a controversial church with anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion views. 

The former boss of the National Australia Bank, who stepped down from that role in 2019 amid a scathing misconduct inquiry report, took the job with the football club on Monday (3 October). 

But it was soon revealed that Thorburn is the chairman of the controversial City on a Hill church, which preaches that “practising homosexuality is a sin”. The church also described abortion as murder and equated it with concentration camps.

The Essendon Football Club, nicknamed the Bombers, said on Tuesday (4 October) that it found the church’s views are in “direct contradiction” to their “values as a club” and that Thorburn couldn’t hold that role as well as the CEO job. 

In turn, Thorburn stepped down from his role with the Bombers. 

Essendon president Dave Barham said in a statement that the club “acted immediately to clarify the publicly espoused views on the organisation’s official website” as soon as “comments relating to a 2013 sermon from a pastor at the City of the Hill church came to light”. 

“Essendon is committed to providing an inclusive, diverse and safe club, where everyone is welcome and respected,” Barham said.

“The board made clear that, despite these not being views that Andrew Thorburn has expressed personally and that were also made prior to him taking up his role as chairman, he couldn’t continue to serve in his dual roles at the Essendon Football Club and as chairman of City on the Hill.”

In a 2013 article, City on a Hill said: “God has designed sex to be enjoyed within a marriage between one man and one woman”. It added that a Christian “who is same-sex attracted should not identify with being gay” as being gay is a “lifestyle that is not consistent with being a Christian”. 

sermon on abortion from 2013 said: “Whereas today we look back at sadness and disgust over concentration camps, future generations will look back with sadness at the legal murder of hundreds of thousands of human beings every day through medicine and in the name of freedom.”

City on a Hill reaffirmed its anti-abortion stance in a 2018 sermon claiming that “even women who have raised children conceived through their rape have not regretted aborting their child”. 

Barham said “neither the board nor [Andrew Thorburn] was aware of the comments from the 2013 sermon” until they read about them “this morning”. 

“I also want to stress that this is not about vilifying anyone for their personal religious beliefs, but about a clear conflict of interest with an organisation whose views do not align at all with our values as a safe, inclusive, diverse and welcoming club for our staff, our players, our members, our fans, our partners and the wider community,” Barham said. 

Andrew Thorburn wears a suit as he speaks to someone off camera

Andrew Thorburn claimed he “never heard” City on a Hill express anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion stances since he joined the church. (Getty)

Thorburn, who joined City on a Hill in 2014, told SEN after his appointment that he “never heard these things expressed since” his time at the church and that he’d “been on the board for two years”. 

“But I also want to say in the church – like any diverse society – there are very different views on all these matters,” Thorburn said. “I have different views on some matters, I’m not a pastor, my job in a governance role is to make sure it’s run well.”